Auto Trails from Fort Wayne

When the Auto Trail era began in Indiana, with the help of the Hoosier Carl G. Fisher, Fort Wayne was one of the cities that would benefit from this new found “Good Roads” movement. By 1920, the Rand McNally Auto Trails map listed six named routes passing through the city. These were, in numerical order according to the Rand, the Yellowstone Trail, the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way, the Hoosier Highway, the Lincoln Highway, the Custer Trail, and the Wabash Way.

The Yellowstone Trail, like the name suggests, connected both coasts to Yellowstone National Park. In 1919, the Yellowstone Trail was designated out of Fort Wayne along what was the previous year marked the Winona Trail. Or so it would seem. While they both went to the same place, their paths west of Fort Wayne were completely different. Well, sort of.

The original 1919 Yellowstone Trail and the Winona Trail and the Yellowstone Trail left Fort Wayne using the same road…Bass Road. As a matter of fact, both used the same path to Columbia City – as follows: Bass Road/CR 500 N and Raber Road into Columbia City. This was one of two direct routes between Fort Wayne and Columbia City.

By 1920, the Yellowstone Trail was rerouted between Fort Wayne and Columbia City. It still followed Bass Road, but then it turned north on what is now Eme Road to head into the town of Arcola. The Yellowstone followed Eme Road until it turned northwest, then west, on what is now Yellow River Road. At the end of Yellow River Road, the trail turned north to Leesburg/Old Trail Road. In 1920, this also became part of State Road 44. It was renumbered in 1923 to State Road 2. With the Great Renumbering, it became US 30.

Now, since the 1928 reroute of the Lincoln Highway and the Yellowstone Trail followed the same corridor, one would think that the road that is called Lincoln Way would have been the old Yellowstone Trail. I did. But a quick glance at maps of the era, the Yellowstone Trail entered Columbia City heading southwest, while Lincolnway enters Columbia City heading northwest.

The Yellowstone Trail east of Fort Wayne headed off towards Hicksville and Defiance, Ohio, using the route that would ultimately become Indiana State Road 37/Ohio State Road 2. It would be joined, at least to Hicksville, by the Hoosier Highway.

The Hoosier Highway south of Fort Wayne would follow what is now the State Road 1 corridor to Bluffton. When the state road system was put in place, it was given the number State Road 13, which would become State Road 3 with the Great Reumbering of 1926.

The Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way entered Fort Wayne from the south roughly using the current US 27/US 33 corridor, which would be State Road 21 in 1920. It left Fort Wayne to the north using roughly the State Road 3 corridor, which didn’t get a state road number until sometime after 1926.

The Lincoln Highway is probably the most documented Auto Trail in history. Entering Fort Wayne from the southeast along the US 30 corridor, it was given the number State Road 2 in 1917. It left the city to the northwest, following the old Goshen Road. Today it is the US 33 corridor, but it was State Road 2, as well, in 1917/1919. It was changed to State Road 46 in 1923, when the designation State Road 2 was applied to the more direct Valparaiso-Fort Wayne route that is now US 30. In 1926, the State Road 46 designation gave way to, again, State Road 2. It stayed that way until the coming of US 33 in 1938.

The Custer Way started north of Fort Wayne at the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way and what is now Clinton Street. It followed what is now Clinton Street to Tonkel Road, which carried the Custer Trail into Auburn. While it would become part of State Road 1, it carried no state road designation until much, much later.

The last one is the Wabash Way. The route itself ended in Fort Wayne as a multiplex with the Hoosier Highway. Parts of the Wabash Way’s old routing is gone now, as it followed the Lower Huntington Road from Fort Wayne to Roanoke. It never did receive a state road designation.

Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana, and as such, had the second largest number of important routes. The Auto Trail era was very good to Fort Wayne, as was the state road era.

The Yellowstone Trail in 1922

In the Auto Trail era, Indiana was a beneficiary of the massive good roads movement. There were many of these roads, and they were going every which direction. The Granddaddy of them all, The Lincoln Highway, crossed the state from Dyer to Fort Wayne..although through South Bend. A more direct route would come a little bit later. I covered that when I wrote about the Winona Trail. The following year, the Winona Trail would be taken over by the Yellowstone Trail. The Yellowstone Trail would cross the country just like the Lincoln Highway.

In November 1921, Fort Wayne held the annual convention of Indiana Trail Representatives. This convention was held at the Chamber of Commerce building. Surprise visitors arrived at that convention…officials from the Yellowstone Trail. The Fort Wayne Sentinel of 17 November 1921 announced that the Yellowstone Trail Association was to be more active during 1922. The General Manager of the Association, H. O. Cooley, of Minneapolis, had visited Fort Wayne to discuss the status of the trail. Many programs were mentioned by Mr. Cooley that would increase the visibility of the Yellowstone.

It was announced that the entire trail through Indiana would be marked with special iron signposts, as opposed to the common markers painted on utility poles, or the tin signs that the Yellowstone Trail used that were nailed to the same utility poles. Information bureaus would also be established across the country, with one in Fort Wayne and possibly one in Gary, to hand out information to tourists about the advantages of and facilities along the trail.

Unlike other states, the Yellowstone Trail was, in 1921, a road that was maintained by the Indiana State Highway Commission. This would help the Yellowstone Trail Association immensely. Since there was a program by the ISHC to pave its road in concrete, the Association stated that the entire route was “schedule for early paving in concrete.” Another plan that would be added to the road was unusual at the time. Two cars would travel the entire length of the Yellowstone Trail, visiting the above mentioned information bureaus, passing out information to people using the road, and information gathering about the conditions of the highway.

Construction along the Trail in February 1922 left the road, and its detour, in bad condition. “The temporary bridge five miles east of Columbia City is unsafe for heavy loads or trucks; the detour is bad. There is a temporary bridge between Atwood, Ind., and Etna Green, Ind., which is safe for light traffic, but dangerous for trucks. A good truck detour will be found by going west from Atwood one and one-half miles, then right one mile to school house, then left two and one-half miles into Etna Green.”

In August 1922, State Highway Commission construction caused confusion when it came to Yellowstone Trail trail out of Fort Wayne. It was best described in both the Fort Wayne Sentinel and the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 13 August 1922 as follows: “The best way to reach the Yellowstone Trail (or Leesburg road) is to leave the city over the Lincoln Highway, turning left on the Butler road and following this road until it reaches the trail, or following the Lincoln Highway as far as Lincoln school, turning left on the California road, which leads back to the Yellowstone Trail.” It is mentioned that the Hoosier Highway and Yellowstone Trail were closed east of Fort Wayne, and recommended that travelers leave Fort Wayne on State Street. The Yellowstone Trail opened to traffic on 29 August.

Another mention of the Yellowstone Trail in 1922 is in the South Bend Tribune of 31 January 1922. But it wasn’t about the trail itself. There was a plan at the time for the State Highway Commission to take over the Liberty Road, which would connect South Bend to the Yellowstone Trail. This idea would not happened for several years…with the Liberty Road becoming part of SR 23.

A most confusing announcement was made in the South Bend Tribune of 12 November 1922. “A representative of the Yellowstone Trail association was here Friday and stated that it was proposed to pave the Yellowstone trail from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis next year. The road has been surveyed.” It would have to be assumed that this means that the Yellowstone Trail would be rerouted? Not sure. But, it was noted in other newspapers that the route between Chicago and Fort Wayne was nine miles shorter using the Yellowstone Trail versus the Lincoln Highway through South Bend. Such a reroute would seem, to me at least, strange at least.

Winona Trail

The Auto-Trail Era in Indiana led to a lot of different routes created for travelers. Some cross country routes, some were confined to the state of Indiana. Some of the routes disappeared as quickly as the appeared, at least as far as some people, and companies, were concerned. Today, I want to talk about an Auto Trail that lasted, according to Rand McNally, one year. That is the Winona Trail.

1918 Rand McNally Auto Trails Map. The route marked with the number 3 is listed as the Winona Trail.

The first reference to the Winona Trail depends on when the above map was published. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 10 March 1918 stated that a new trail was being planned to create a short cut to Chicago from Fort Wayne. The new route would be called the Winona Trail, making a shorter drive to Valparaiso. The routes currently in use between the two cities included the Lincoln Highway, which connected through Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend and LaPorte, and an unnamed trail that connected through North Manchester, Rochester, Culver and Tefft.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel of 5 April 1918 reported that “Winona Trail Is To Be Established.” The route, “leading west of Fort Wayne through Columbia City over the Yellow River road, thence west through Larwill, Pierceton, Winona, Warsaw, Bourbon, Plymouth and Valparaiso, and eventually on to Chicago is to be established as a state highway.” Keep in mind that the Indiana State Highway Commission was in flux. The ISHC was created in 1917, but was dealing with a constitutional battle. That battle would not be resolved until 1919. So this reference to a “state highway” did not mean what it means today.

Rand McNally, one of the premier sources of Auto Trail information, removed the Winona Trail from their maps in 1919 with the coming of the Yellowstone Trail. That new road followed the same route the Winona Trail did. Since the latter was only in Indiana, while the former was a cross country route, one can assume that it was left off maps simply due to complete duplication.

The last reference to the Winona Trail in any newspapers (that I have access to, anyway) was made in the Fort Wayne Sentinel of 1 September 1921. This reference was made in a news story about the new “Washington Highway” that would connect Fort Wayne to Spokane in the west to Cleveland in the east. “The addition of this latest highway, in the opinion of Secretary H. E. Bodine, of the Chamber of Commerce, gives Fort Wayne the largest number of national highway of any city in the country.” The Winona Trail was mentioned in a list of the highways, other than the Washington Highway, that entered the city: Lincoln, Yellowstone, Ohio-Indiana-Michigan, Custer Trail, Hoosier, Wabash Way, and Winona Trail.

The route that was the Winona Trail/Yellowstone Trail would be added to the state highway system as SR 44 in 1920. With the first renumbering of the state highway system in 1923, this route was changed from SR 44 to SR 2, the number given to the original Lincoln Highway route. The Great Renumbering in 1926 gave the road the designation US 30. In 1928, the Lincoln Highway would be rerouted along this corridor.

When it was said and done, the afterthought route, directly connecting Valparaiso and Fort Wayne, and following the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago (Pennnsylvania) railroad that had even more directly connected the two for decades, would become the more important route across Indiana. A route that more or less started to create a way for visitors to get to Winona Lake.